Chinese dregea

Dregea sinensis
Dregea sinensis / Wikimedia
  • Dregea sinensis is a twining vine with star-shaped white, fragrant flowers and soft, green, heart-shaped leaves

Dregea sinensis, common names Chinese Dregea and Watakaka, is native to Africa and Southern Asia. It is climber that can reach approximately three metres high by the same width once it is mature, which can take up to ten years. It can be slow to get established and may not really 'take off' for three years but once it has settled in, Chinese dregea will provide masses of scented flowers from spring to autumn and is a great alternative to Jasmine for covering fences and pergolas.

The umbels of flowers are about six centimetres across and resemble those of Hoya, the wax flower. They are white with a red or pink speckled centre and are very fragrant and will last on the vine for about a week. After the flowers, long, brown seed pods about seven centimetres long form. The leaves are heart-shaped and are grey and fuzzy underneath. They will stay on the vine all year round in temperate climates but in colder areas they may drop.

Close up of flowers

Close up of flowers / Wikimedia

Chinese dregea is not frost hardy and will need protection in inland areas away from the coast. It is drought tolerant for short periods and will benefit from regular watering during the hottest months. Although not fussy about soil type, it will need to be free draining to prevent water-logging.

The best situation for this vine is a position where it will receive some shade from the hot afternoon sun. Too much sun will scorch the soft, green leaves.

Propagation is by seed or basal cuttings (new shoots cut from below soil level at the base of the plant).

There are some varieties available which have silver edged or variegated leaves and D. sinensis Hemsley is used in China to make goats' milk cakes, an extract from the plant works in a way similar to rennet.